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The benefits of the circular economy and recycling: Update for language professionals

By Barbara McClintock, Certified Translator

One of the easiest and least costly things we can do as individuals to protect the environment is to recycle. A circular economy is a system in which products are reduced, reused, recycled and even reintroduced into new products so there is no waste. The vision of the circular economy is to reduce or eliminate CO2 emissions by properly managing waste. Recycling is an industry with its own terminology. If you have a client in this field, you should study the legislative framework and terms used as you would for any other industry. This article is intended to provide you with the basics.

Legal framework

Recycling costs are mainly borne by government, but manufacturers also need to share the burden. Since packaging is a major source of waste, Québec has set up a compensation regime for manufacturers to pay their share. The compensation regime is governed by the Québec Environment Quality Act (the Act) and the Québec Regulation respecting compensation for municipal services provided to recover and reclaim residual materials (the Regulation). The purpose of the Regulation and of other legislative measures regarding residual materials management is “to prevent and reduce the impact of residual materials on the environment.”1

In particular, the Regulation designates the materials or classes of materials to which the compensation regime applies and specifies the calculation method and the performance and efficiency criteria used to determine the annual compensation.

The Regulation applies to the following classes of materials:

(1) containers and packaging: this class includes all flexible or rigid material, for example paper, carton, plastic, glass or metal, and any combination of such materials that

(a) is used to contain, protect, wrap or present products at any stage in the movement of the product from the producer to the ultimate user or consumer; or

(b) is intended for a single or short-term use and designed to contain, protect or wrap products, such as storage bags, wrapping paper and paper or styrofoam cups.

(2) newspapers: this class includes paper and other cellulosic fibres used as a medium for written current affairs periodicals published on newsprint, particularly dailies and weeklies.

This class also includes containers and packaging used to deliver newspapers directly to the ultimate consumer or recipient;

(3) printed matter: this class includes paper and other cellulosic fibres, whether or not they are used as a medium for text or images, except books and materials in the newspapers class. 

Bill 65 was assented to in March 2021. In addition to deposits and selective collection, Bill 65, or An Act to amend mainly the Environment Quality Act with respect to deposits and selective collection, also covers the modernization of the deposit system.

Breaking news: Glass recycling will be included in the Québec deposit system

Keeping up to date is important for language professionals. Did you know that In August 2021, the Government of Québec, together with Recyc-Québec, announced that seven glass recycling pilot projects would be launched in six cities: Granby, Châteauguay, Trois-Rivières, Mont-Laurier, Montréal and Terrebonne?3 The project has been a success and will be continued until December 2022. The objective is to collect glass separately so it can remain in a pure state. Unfortunately, it is not possible to recycle glass collected in the regular recycling bins because it becomes contaminated when put in a bin with other materials. There are certain materials in recycling bins that cannot be removed and that become fused with glass because of different melting temperatures. The best way to recycle glass is therefore to collect it separately.4 Starting in fall 2022, glass will be “gradually” included in the deposit system, e.g., wine bottles will be worth 25 cents and other glass containers will be worth 10 cents. Recovery points will be located at retailers.4

Some legal terminology in the recycling field

After a brief overview of the legal framework, let’s now look at some basic terminology. The Regulation contains a few terms we need to be aware of: contribution, schedule of contributions and distinguishing guise.

3. The owner of a brand, a name or a distinguishing guise may be required to pay a contribution pursuant to a schedule of contributions established under section 53.31.14 of the Act in respect of

(1) containers and packaging used in the commercialization or marketing in Québec of a product or a service under that brand, name or distinguishing guise; and
(2) containers and packaging identified by that brand, name or distinguishing guise.

(emphasis added)

“Contribution” and the “schedule of contributions” refer to payments the waste producers (manufacturers) are required to make. According to Division III, section 3, of the Regulation, “distinguishing guise” means “the shaping of containers or packaging, the appearance of which is used by a person for the purpose of distinguishing, or so as to distinguish products manufactured, sold, leased, hired or performed by the person from those manufactured, sold, leased, hired or performed by others.”

A client needed a translation containing the following expressions which required a little research:

Économie circulaire, éco-conception (éco-conçues), déchets électroniques and Où recycler vos Serpuariens?

The definitions of the English equivalents follow below:

  • Circular economy A circular economy is a system which maintains the value of products, materials and resources in the economy for as long as possible and minimizes the generation of waste. This means a system where products are reused, repaired, remanufactured or recycled.5
  • Ecodesign
    Ecodesign is the integration of environmental aspects into the product development process.6
  • E-waste
    Electronic or e-waste means electronic products, e.g., computers, TVs, VCRs, stereos, copiers and fax machines.7
  • Où recycler vos Serpuariens? - Where can I recycle?8
    Serpuariens is a catchy word created in Québec based on a slang expression, pu, included in les sert-pu à rien, which may be loosely translated as good-for-nothings in English. It is a slogan for a very effective advertising campaign in French. Unfortunately, the official translation in English is the rather boring, “Where can I recycle?” The overall campaign is called Recycler mes électroniques or “Recycle My Electronics.” 

In addition to using the correct technical and legal terms, language professionals can help complete the circle of the circular economy by reducing, reusing and recycling. E-waste is something they know about and can do something about themselves by taking their old electronic equipment to points de dépôt officiels or “authorized drop-off points.” 


European Environmental Agency Glossary

Recyc-Québec Glossary (French only):


  1. Regulation, section 1,%20r.%2010
  2. Bill 65
  3. Société québécoise de récupération et de recyclage
  5. CBC News
  6. Eur-lex Access to European Law
  7. EEA Glossary
  8. Les Serpuariens

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of its author.

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